Connectivity: Is the EU's Natura 2000 Network Only an Ecological Network on Paper?
Proceedings of Conference, Antwerp 12-13 December 2012. 20 Years of Habitats Directive: European Wildlife’s Best Hope?
16 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2013
Date Written: May 2, 2013
In 1992, the famous European Natura 2000 network, designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s found its way into the EU’s key biodiversity instrument, the Habitats Directive. The word ‘network’ indicates that protected areas are linked to each other and, thus, establish connectivity. It was only in the decade after the adoption of the Habitats Directive, that the term ‘connectivity’ was coined, mainly in connection to climate change. It is generally thought that connecting natural areas allows species and habitats to adapt to the changing climate. One would, therefore, think that a) the EU was well ahead of time when instituting the Natura 2000 network, and b) already has the legal tools available to facilitate or even require connectivity measures to be taken. This contribution will show that this is true only to a certain extent. The main question addressed in this paper is: does the current legislative framework establishing the EU’s Natura 2000 network require Member States to implement connectivity measures? Following steps will be taken to address this question. First, I will very briefly explain what connectivity is and show that there is a growing need for connectivity measures to be taken. Then, I will deal with the Natura 2000 network, both the way it has been put into legal provisions (law in the books) and the way it works in practice (law in action). From this section, it will become apparent that current Natura 2000 law does not provide the robust legal framework that is needed to meet the growing need for connectivity. It shows that the current legislative framework depends much upon voluntary actions by the EU Member States and that more stringent formulations of connectivity requirements in the Habitats Directive are needed to ascertain connectivity conservation throughout Europe. I present several ways forward, drawing on recent case law by the EU Court of Justice.
Keywords: connectivity, biodiversity law, protected areas, EU Habitats Directive
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation